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10 ways to see New York on a budget

Published June 14th, 2013

New York, New York, it's a hell of a town. It can be an expensive town too if you're not careful/haven't taken the advice of this blog. Having spent a week in New York just recently, the following tips are what I found worked best for saving the occasional buck or too in the Big Apple.

Hanging out in the Lower East Side

Don’t stay in Times Square

Unless you’re in town for one night only to see a Broadway show, you really don’t need to stay near Times Square. The area is incredibly overpriced and is really just geared towards tourists. While I did do the typical cliché of having my photo taken amongst the LCD adverts (and saw LL COOL J!), I really didn’t spend much time here. Instead, I recommend staying in one of New York’s more colourful boroughs like the Lower East Side, Harlem or even Brooklyn. Not only will these have cheaper accommodation options, but they’ll also show you a more authentic and unique view of New York, and make it much more possible to pretend like you’re a local.

 

Visit the NYC Information Centre

If you find yourself wandering the streets of New York with a lot of questions, the best place to have them answered is at the NYC Information Center in Midtown. With state-of-the-art digital kiosks and friendly staff, this centre can help you with everything from maps to ticket deals, New York passes and can even help you put together personalized itineraries based off Google maps.

 

Some of the essentials that came in handy

 

Save time and money with a New York pass

This pass was my saving grace while I was in New York and I highly recommend it to anyone who’s both time and money poor. With only 6 days to spend in New York, I opted for the 3 day card which covered the fees to pretty much every museum and attraction I wanted to see for just $155. With entry to over 80 attractions including most of the museums, bike rentals, various cruises, walking tours and the NBC Studio Tour (yes!), the card offers a whopping saving of $212. #worthit

 

Ride the Staten Island Ferry

Considering that public transport in Australia grows more and more costly every day, it’s quite amazing that one of New York’s best transport options is absolutely free. Attributed to being the ‘cheapest date in New York’ the Staten Island Ferry is a wonderful way to take in the city’s views as well as the Statue of Liberty without spending a cent. The ferry departs the Manhattan Whitehall Terminal every 15 to 30 minutes depending on the time of day.

 

Attend a TV show taping

Don’t have the funds to fork out on a Broadway show? Then why not try and make it to a TV show taping? You can see a number of super awesome shows being filmed in New York such as The Colbert Report, The Daily Show with John Stewart, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and of course the hallmark, the Late Show with David Letterman. While it doesn’t cost anything to see the shows, you do need to usually register for tickets online or at the theatre’s box office. Other shows, like Letterman, may also even ask you some random trivia questions which, based on your answer, will determine whether you get a ticket. Challenge accepted!

A million dollar view for only $25

 

Take in the view at the Empire State Building

If your hotel doesn’t offer million dollar views, you can always get them for $25 at the Empire State Building.  Also one of the attractions on a New York pass, the building’s observation deck still offers one of the best panoramic views of the city from the 86th floor. When I visited the building I not only loved the incredible view from the observatory (you really do have to see it, during the day and at night) but the exhibition of the history of the iconic building was fantastic. The lift also blew my mind too, travelling from the ground to the 80th floor in only 56 seconds!

 

Shop at the Brooklyn Flea

Granted, there are plenty of cheap bargains to be found in New York. Century 21 alone should save you some pretty pennies. But for some unique hipster shopping without the pretentious price tag, you can’t pass up the Brooklyn Flea which is held at Fort Greene every Saturday and in Williamsburg every Sunday.

 

Don’t pay for wi-fi

In the city that doesn’t sleep, you really don’t need to pay for wi-fi. Most hotels and hostels will provide it free-of-charge, but in the case that they don’t, New York has plenty of locations that do. Everything from Starbucks to McDonalds, the city’s big department stores and even the New York Public Library have free wi-fi for you to upload all of your instagram pics to. Even some open-air parks are equipped with free wi-fi. Gotta love this city!

 

One of the city's most popular stations

Take the subway

Sure, cabs are pretty cheap in New York but you know what’s even cheaper? The subway! Don’t be afraid of it. It’s your friend and will save you a few Benjamin Franklins if you opt for a MetroCard, with the 7-Day Unlimited Pass costing only $30.

 

Explore the nightlife during happy hour

Who doesn’t love happy hour? No one, that’s who. New York is just the same and as such, is a great time to experience the nightlife scene on the cheap. Like $3 drinks at Fiddlesticks in the West Village, $2 beers at The Slide in Noho and $4 cosmos at Welcome to the Johnsons in LES. Just don’t forget to tip!

 

Hang out at the High Line

Sure Central Park has its charms, but the new cool-kid place to hang when the sun is out in New York is the High Line. With a brief starring spot in HBO’s Girls, the High Line is a West Side public park located in the Meatpacking District. What makes this park so special though is that is has been built on a historic freight rail line and is elevated above the streets. With height on its side, the park itself is not only pretty, but it’s got quite the view as well.

Lauren Burvill

Australian born but London based, I'm a sucker for big cities and small tropical islands. When travelling, I like eating like a local, dressing like a local, but staying in 5 star style. Have a travel story to share? Tweet me @laurenburvill.